Played Burning Wheel today

pemerton

Legend
My friend and I continued our two GM, two player Burning Wheel today. I wrote up our second session here, and we played another session between that one and today's. That session ended rather surprisingly:

Alicia and Aedhros escaped the guards, but Alicia then returned to fight them so that Grellin would not be captured. Alicia defeated the guards near single-handedly with her martial art; Aedhros helped a little at the end, and was then going to kill one of them with his black-metal long knife Heart-seeker. Due to a failed test of some sort (Intimidate, I think) it had been established that Thurandril, Aedhros's father-in-law, whom Aedhros blames for the death of his spouse (the event that sent him onto the Path of Spite) was watching things unfold (having come to the docks on some or other business). Alicia tried to use Persuasion (analogous to D&D's Suggestion spell) to stop Aedhros, but she failed both her casting of the spell, and her roll to endure the tax of casting.

The mis-cast created a fire effect nearby, which caused the Golden Sow - the vessel on which the two PCs had arrived in Hardby, and still docked in the harbour - to catch fire. The failed tax roll caused overtax equivalent to a mortal wound, and so Alicia was dying. Her player - my friend - spent the Persona to establish that she had the will to live. Aedhros, determined not to have another person in his charge die in front of Thurandril, tried to staunch her bleeding with his Song of Soothing, but failed. So then he did the only thing he could think of - as someone whose Circles include the Path of Spite, and who has a reputation as ill-favoured for himself and others, he looked to see if a bloodletting or surgical necromancer or similar ill-omened type might be nearby the scene!

But the Circles check failed: and so no friendly bloodletter appeared, but rather the Death Artist Thoth, who - for reasons not yet clear, but certainly not wholesome - carries a lock of the hair of Aedhros's dead spouse (even though that death occurred when the now-41 year old Thoth was only two years old). Thoth took Alicia into his workroom, through the secret entrance that leads onto the docks; and Aedhros had no choice but to go with him.

We spent the rest of that session burning up Thoth - Born Noble, Arcane Devotee, Court Sorcerer, Rogue Wizard, Death Artist. Cometh the corpse, cometh Thoth.

Today's session began with the Surgery attempt to treat Alicia's mortal wound. It failed badly (we have the notes somewhere, but from memory the Ob was 14 (7 doubled for no tools) and 1 success was achieved), and so her Health check to avoid acquiring the Mortally Wounded in the Head trait will be against Ob 19. A roll of the dice determined that it will take her 8 months to regain full consciousness, at which point she will then have to recover from a Traumatic Wound.

The session then focused predominantly upon Thoth. His Beliefs are I will give the dead new life; Aedhros is a failure, so I will bind him to my will; Cometh the corpse, cometh Thoth! And the player leaned heavily into these. Thoth also has a rather idiosyncratic pattern of speech - something of a lisp, and at least a hint of a European, perhaps German, accent.

Thoth wanted to go to the docks to find corpses, of those who had died at sea. Aedhros was concerned that the fire on the Golden Sow would have attracted undue attention - but mention of this only made Thoth more eager, as there must be dead bodies as a result of that blaze! I think we agreed to resolve this as simple Persuasion vs Persuasion (both Beginner's Luck), and Thoth won. So Aedhros came with him. I (taking the GM role) narrated the blaze as extinguished, and the ship sitting charred on the harbour. The Ship's Master did not want to let Thoth on board, finding his obsession with corpses a little unpleasant, but in the Duel of Wits Thoth's body of argument remained completely intact, and so the Master conceded that he would allow Thoth to take and dispose of any bodies.

Aedhros knew something of the valuable cargo being carried by the vessel, from his and Alicia's theft of information from the harbour office, and decided to try and take some more valuable items surreptitiously, without Thoth noticing. Successful Scavenging (with FoRKs for Inconspicuous and Sleight of Hand) enabled him to grab 2D of loot.

Thoth, who has an Instinct to Always collect bits and pieces, also couldn't help but look around for Surgery tools, and succeeded on the Ob 10 test (Perception rolled for Beginner's Luck). A die of fate roll indicated that one corpse was available for collection, and Aedhros helped Thoth carry it off. At one point, something particularly grotesque happened (I think, as narrated by my friend, a bit of the body Aedhros was holding onto sloughed off) and a Steel test was called for and failed. Hesitating, Aedhros dropped the body, and it nearly landed in the water - but Thoth, driven by his desire for corpses!, succeeded on a Power test to not let go.

When the body was back in the workshop, Thoth used his Second Sight to read its Aura, looking for traits. This test failed, and so Thoth learned that the corpse had been Stubborn in life - perhaps why this particular sailor had not evacuated the Sow - which is a +1 Ob to Death Art. I also made a roll to determine the state of the body, which determined that the fire had damaged it to the same degree as a year of death, which added a further +4 Ob penalty. Thoth successfully performed Taxidermy - against Ob 5 - to preserve the corpse, with a roll good enough to carry over +1D advantage to the Death Art test but did not what to attempt the Ob 7 Death Art (with his Death Art 5) until he could be boosted by Blood Magic. And so he sent Aedhros out to find a victim

Aedhros had helped collect the corpse, and also helped with the Taxidermy (using his skill with Heart-seeker), but was unable to help with the Death Art. He was reasonably happy to now leave the workshop; and was no stranger to stealthy kidnappings in the dark. I told my friend (now GMing) that I wanted to use Stealthy, Inconspicuous and Knives to spring upon someone and force them, at knife point, to come with me to the workshop. He called for a linked test first, on Inconspicuous with Stealth FoRKed in. This succeeded, and Aedhros found a suitable place outside a house of ill-repute, ready to kidnap a lady of the night. When a victim appeared, Aedhros tried to force a Steel test (I think - my memory is a bit hazy) but whatever it was, it failed, and the intended victim went screaming into the night. Now there is word on the street of a knife-wielding assailant.

Aedhros's Beliefs are I will avenge the death of my spouse!, Thurandril will admit that I am right! and I will free Alicia and myself from the curse of Thoth!; and his Instincts are Never use Song of Soothing unless compelled to, Always repay hurt with hurt, and When my mind is elsewhere, quietly sing the elven lays. Having failed at the most basic task, and not knowing how to return to Thoth empty-handed, Aedhros wandered away from the docks, up into the wealthier parts of the city, to the home of the Elven Ambassador. As he sang the Elven lays to himself, I asked the GM for a test on Sing, to serve as a linked test to help in my next test to resist Thoth's bullying and depravity. The GM set my Spite of 5 as the obstacle, and I failed - a spend of a fate point only got me to 4 successes on 4 dice.

My singing attracted the attention of a guard, who had heard the word on the street, and didn't like the look of this rag-clothed Dark Elf. Aedhros has Circles 3 and a +1 reputation with the Etharchs, and so I rolled my 4 dice to see if an Etharch (whether Thurandril or one of his underlings or associates) would turn up here and now to tell the guards that I am right and they should not arrest me. But the test failed, and the only person to turn up was another guard to join the first in bundling me off. So I had to resort to the more mundane method of offering them 1D of loot to leave me alone. The GM accepted this, no test required.

Then, repaying hurt with hurt, Aedhros followed one of the guards - George, as we later learned he was called - who also happened to be the one with the loot. Aedhros ambushed him from the darkness, and took him at knife point back to the workshop, where Thoth subject him to the necessary "treatment" (successful Torture test to inflict a PTGS 7 (Midi) wound), granting +2D to Death Art (and also sending George into a swoon, perhaps a blessing as it meant he did not need to witness the horrors of the Death Art performance). The dice were now rolled for the (careful) Death Art test, with 7 successes needed to raise the body from the ship as a Walking Dead. Only 6 successes (on 9 open-ended dice, with a Fate Point spent) were rolled, and so it failed. Looking at the GM advice for failed Death Art, I rolled an unwelcome summoning result, and something weird and creepy scurried out into the darkness.

And then, at that very moment - acting carefully, and failing, licenses a time-sensitive complication - there was a knock on the door. (How this door relates to the secret door onto the docks is not quite clear, but can be resolved in due course.) Serap, the maid servant of Lady Mina, had been told that Thoth was a surgeon whom she might be able to afford, to treat her mistress. She had 1D of coin to offer; Thoth insisted on 3D, and opposed Haggling checks were made (her rank 3 vs Thoth's Beginner's Luck) and they were tied, which I had agreed prior to rolling would be a 2D compromise. She paid the 1D now, and the rest would be paid after treatment.

Serap led Thoth, and Aedhros, through the streets. She had an initial shock when Thoth's sustained Wyrd Lights were revealed to be magical motes of life, rather than candles cleverly suspended from the ceiling, but only hesitated rather than swooning. The group arrived at Lady Mina's house, a grand one but past its prime. The staff were only an old watchman, and Serap. Most of the windows were in darkness. But a candle was lighting an upstairs window, and there in her sick-bed was Lady Mina. And sitting beside her, to provide religious comfort, was Father Simon. It was Father Simon who had suggested Thoth to Serap, and he now greeted him as a surgeon.

Father Simon is a NPC from earlier Burning Wheel play: the evil priest in Keep on the Borderlands, a death cultist who goes about disguised as an educated and erudite priest of the mainstream faith, who hears the confessions of noble men and women. Thoth is a Death Artist, a lifepath from the Death Cult, and he recognised Father Simon (as narrated by me as GM) and tested his Death Cult-wise (as declared by my friend, playing Thoth), to see what he recalled about this priest. But failed.

I thought about this. Although Thoth has some connection to the Death Cult, he has no affiliation with the cult, and so - as I discussed with my friend, the player of Thoth - this certainly raised the prospect that Thoth and the Cult might have some sort of unfinished business. This hung over the rest of this situation, which was the rest of the session.

Thoth performed Aura Reading on Lady Mina, and determined that she still lived, giving him +1D advantage on his surgery. Aedhros also helped with the Song of Soothing. But the test failed. And it had been performed carefully, which licensed a time-sensitive complication: I told Thoth's player that, even as he was trying to save the life of the Lady Mina, the guard George had regained consciousness and fled the workshop.

Aedhros, once again having someone die in front of him, and wishing still to be free of Thoth's curse, decided to try and heal Lady Mina himself. But with the double Ob penalty for no tools, it was an Ob 6 Song of Soothing test. Partially to have a chance of success, and also because I really wanted a Routine test for advancement, I mustered as many dice as I could: +2 for working with the care of the eternal, +1D advantage for having Thoth bring his Wyrd Lights down as close as possible, but also having to accept 2 dice of help from Thoth's Bloodletting 6. (The inner struggle and outer monologue of all this did earn me my Mouldbreaker persona.)

That test was also a failure - not a single success on 9 dice - and Lady Mina passed away.

Thoth then declared his intention to take her corpse away for disposal, and this triggered an intervention from Father Simon. He wanted her to be laid to rest in the city catacombs, with her ancestors; and there was also a sub-text of imposing Death Cult discipline on Thoth. This was a Duel of Wits, and Father Simon - a 7-lifepath burn with a heavy social emphasis and a good range of FoRKable Wises, Histories and Doctrines - succeeded with no loss to his body of argument. In the denouement, he chastised Thoth for his cavalier approach to the collection and treatment of corpses, at odds with the teachings of the Dark Gods from beyond the stars - who promise eternal life - and putting them all at risk. Evidence of this included the shadow from the void waiting outside, should Thoth try and return home in the darkness rather than waiting for the sun to rise.

And so the session ended with Thoth agreeing to come to the catacombs - with Aedhros, to see how to properly deal with a corpse and perhaps learn some doctrine too.

My friend and I also agreed that learning doctrine might be the sort of thing that could take some time, allowing for Alicia to progress in her recovery and also calling for some lifestyle maintenance tests.

In my previous post about this game, I commented that it was an interesting experience playing such a nasty character as Aedhros. In this session, I felt I was playing Igor to Thoth, with a My Life With Master vibe. I'm not sure when we'll play next, or what exactly will happen in the catacombs.
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad


pemerton

Legend
Very dramatic session! Thanks for the update. I've no experience with Burning Wheel so these session updates are interesting.
As you might be able to guess, the basic resolution is dice pools (either opposed or against a set obstacle) with 4+ (on d6) as a success. Unlike (say) Prince Valiant, players have lots of ways to manipulate their pool size, and also some ways to manipulate results after rolling (very close to Torchbearer, though not identical).

We're playing very "no myth" beyond the broad conception of the situation - rather low-life types on the docks of Hardby. And we're taking turns between GM roles (framing and consequence) and player roles, which isn't something the rulebooks mention but works fairly well given we both know the system well, and its pretty robust (as in, once the scene is framed there is not a lot of need for the GM to just make up what happens).
 

jdrakeh

Front Range Warlock
I always like to see positive play reports for BW, because it's a game that I've always wanted to like/understand, but ultimately had to conclude it wasn't for me (or the people who tried running it for me).
 

pemerton

Legend
I always like to see positive play reports for BW, because it's a game that I've always wanted to like/understand, but ultimately had to conclude it wasn't for me (or the people who tried running it for me).
Thanks! I'm just sorry it didn't work out for you. Overall I think it's my favourite FPRG, and I find it unrivalled for intensity in play.
 

jdrakeh

Front Range Warlock
Thanks! I'm just sorry it didn't work out for you. Overall I think it's my favourite FPRG, and I find it unrivalled for intensity in play.

It mostly didn't work out for me because, when I did play it, I had terribad GMs who didn't understand basic conceits of the system (e.g. one person construed "failing forward" to mean that PCs failed critically in addition to achieving basic success whenever they... er.... succeeded on a roll, rather than something happening to move the game forward when they failed a roll). As for my running it, the local player pool was largely not interested.
 


Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top